As the snow starts to fall, signaling the start of another Minnesota winter, perhaps it’s time to start planning an adventure for next summer. Did you know that 95 St. Thomas students studied abroad last summer in 12 different countries? Through unique internship experiences in Ireland and Spain, research experiences in Korea and countless academic excursions throughout the world, UST global ambassadors gained professional and intercultural skills that will help them navigate an increasingly connected global workplace.
“The study abroad research program allowed me to have a hands-on experience with the possibility of pursuing research as a potential career,” said senior Kyle Edgren of his summer research experience in Korea. “Immersing myself in an unfamiliar culture added an enlightening bonus where I was also able to work with Korean students that differ from myself in many ways. This combination provided an invaluable insight into the career itself as well as an exposure to different cultures.”
Edgren’s research experience was facilitated by biology professor Hangkyo Lim, Ph.D., to “provide our students with the more advanced research experience in the large research universities, while having the ample opportunities of cross-cultural experience in Korea,” Lim said.
Four other students also conducted research in Korea over the summer and shared comparable experiences. “The process of doing research and collecting good data that can be presented was very good practice for me,” senior Justin Hummelgard said. “Overall, I thought that this experience made me a more independent person that is now more ready for the challenges that I will face later in life when I may not have someone there to help me.”
International internship experiences also created beneficial cross-cultural and professional learning experiences. Through the university’s co-sponsored study abroad programs, UST students interned in five different countries during summer 2014, including England, China and Australia.
Senior Kevin Gronseth’s internship in Dublin, Ireland, opened his eyes to the world of global finance. “(The internship) allowed me to gain valuable experience both in the classroom and in the workforce, which allowed me to see the world, especially the economy and the world of finance, with a more global lens,” Gronseth said. “Doing an internship in another country will not only look great on my resume but will also show that I am able to adapt to different situations in the workplace and thrive because of my experiences working abroad.”
Reflecting on her Seville, Spain, internship, senior Danielle Lobejko commented, “While in Spain I was doing an internship with a company called CB Group International in the marketing department. This was incredibly helpful because I learned the ways in which an international company works. I am interested in doing business in Spain as well as America so it's nice to have the knowledge of both under my belt.”
But even “traditional” study abroad programs can have a direct impact on career and culture learning. Sophomore Lauren Vallez participated in a France-Italy-based course, Sustainable Alternative Energy Sources and the Future, and found that the experience is leading her to reconsider her career ambitions.
“The study abroad experience opened my eyes to a field I had never studied before. … Now, because of this study abroad experience, I am more confident in my decision to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering and it has caused me to consider studying sustainable energy resources in grad school or someday search for a job that would have me researching and creating new biofuels, cost competitive solar panels and nuclear fusion reactors,” Vallez said.
St. Thomas engineering faculty members Greg Mowry, Ph.D., and John Wentz, Ph.D., designed the course to “help the 18 students understand the environmental impact of existing energy systems and introduce them to state-of-the-art alternative energy system solutions that are sustainable. In addition, the course has significant culture aspects since the implementation of the various sustainable energy solutions are driven by the cultures that develop and use them,” Mowry said.
While engineering students studied renewable energy systems, Phil Anderson, Ph.D., led a cohort of 19 students through the U.K. and Ireland for the capstone Management 480 course. Though a series of site visits and lectures on both management and British culture, students glimpsed the intersection of culture and business.
“Learning about the business life of London, one of the most commercial cities in the world, also helped put our management class into perspective,” senior Kelsi Stahl said.
Senior Stuart Lombardo said studying business overseas gave him a new perspective. “After seeing the effects of cultural differences on business during the curriculum and firsthand, it was made clear that a successful product or service in the United States does not directly translate into success abroad," Lombardo said.
Graduate students took advantage of the opportunity to study abroad as well, with 14 CELC students studying in Tanzania with Father Jean-Pierre Bongila and 13 law students spending six weeks in Rome.
"One experience that will remain with me forever was meeting students of a rural school in a Masai community,” said graduate student Anandram Seriram of the experience in Tanzania. “The conditions there were not the best. For instance there were not enough books, or classroom space, but at the same time, I could sense that burning need to learn from the students.”
With the range of off-campus options available, the University of St. Thomas strives to make it possible for all students to add an international component to their degree. Summer 2015 promises to offer an increasing range of off-campus options, with new faculty-led courses being offered in Cuba, Iceland and Korea and a wide range of co-sponsored internship- and classroom-based study abroad options. Visit the Study Abroad website for additional information about summer 2015 opportunities, or stop by the Office of Study Abroad in the recently relocated International Education Center (MHC212).